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The Individual or The Collective -- Observations on Japan 2019

Fara Gold's picture

By Fara Gold McLaughlin

My first and comprehensive visit to Japan this May is allowing me the opportunity to see many of the historic and cultural sites throughout Japan. I am also enjoying the luxuries of Japanese spa treatments to renew my body, mind, and spirit.

This week I experienced a traditional Japanese spa treatment called “Sakura Mind, Body, and Spirit Refresh.” After more than three hours of buffing, polishing and “shining up” my vintage body -- I did feel refreshed. My English-speaking therapist told me she lived in the US for two years as a foreign exchange high school student in Seattle more than fifteen years ago.   

I asked her what she loved the most about her years in the US and she answered, “I felt like I could really be me.” I then asked her what did it mean to her to really be herself? Yuzuki went on to tell me how she feels Japan is “. . . too focused on what everyone else is doing and what others expect from us.” She went on to say, “I felt like I could do anything I dreamed of in America.”

Longing and Sadness

There were longing and sadness in her voice. As she professionally delivered one of the most healing body massages and facials, I thought how wonderful it would be if the best of my experience of the service and caring of the Japanese culture could come together with the business capitalism approach of our American culture.

My therapist was reverent and completely focused on my needs as the customer. She asked for feedback throughout the treatments to make sure I was having the best possible customer experience. She was soft-spoken and very deferential in wanting me to feel pampered and my expectations met for the various spa treatments.  

Expectations

My expectations were exceeded as the overall spa music, scents, textures of the soft cottons and silk, along with Yuzuki’s talented professional hands eased the tension throughout my body and the overall experience helped me find a moment in time to fully relax and just “be.” I kept thinking throughout my experience, what a great approach for our senior housing, care, and services business; to align with the therapeutic approach to what the customer wants and needs or helping the customer with ongoing feedback.

I know our senior housing operators strive to complete resident and family surveys annually -- if not more often. Yet how often do we really circle back to ask more questions, listen to learn, validate our residents and their families' experiences, and strive to do better and learn from the feedback?  

So Much Opportunity

We have so much opportunity to truly ask and listen to customize our services and experiences for residents; daily, and strategically. Similar to Yuzuki’s comments about how she felt she could “be” or “do” anything in America, I believe the future of senior housing and services will depend upon our ability to create truly individualized experiences versus a generic collective of programs and services for the average number of residents. As we compete with the 90% of our seniors who are staying at home, longer, and with individualized home care services, we as senior housing industry leaders must find a way to create even greater personalization for our residents.

If we believe, and certainly the regulatory and state licensing demands, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing create and provide individualized and personalized care plans then we need to recruit, onboard, train, coach, and provide recognition and incentives for individual caregivers to deliver the very personalized care that we are required to and what I know the families and residents desire.  

In a world of opportunity for senior housing investors, owners, and operators -- NOW is the time to create management teams and systems to provide strategic individual support within the framework of the delivery channel! Whether it is a residential community, small cottage concept housing, co-housing, or home care . . . we can do better. To truly create meaningful experiences, we need to recognize "The Individual versus The Collective" to grow our margins. Let’s adopt the great Covey approach to “asking versus telling” and “listening to learn”.

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